Chapter 2-A Window Opens
3 years later
"Slower…slower" Ado rasped into the mic as he looked up at his partner in the open skylight above.
Ky Burel removed his finger from the ear piece and consented to his younger partners demand by tapping the bottom key of the rapelling tripod affixed to the dome roof of the Altorel Corporation on Bespin. It would be more accurate to say "above Bespin" as the planet in question was a gas giant without a solid surface. However, some enterprising beings had set up an orbital gas mining center called Cloud City. Over the decades the company headquarters would develop into an actual city with a population numbering two and half million at last check. Cloud City had longed stop being just a mining center and under the administration of the galaxy famous Lando Calrissian, Cloud City had become one of the go to places for small tech firms looking to innovate away from the prying eyes of the government.
Long ago, Ky couldn't say when as pre Great War history was not his forte…and Nar Shadaa's school system was not renowned, the Old Republic had realized the dangers of technology. Not just the same old 'AI taking over' clichés, but the more subtle ways technology could ruin a civilization. Thus the Science and Technology committee was born, and quickly became the home of the most influential senators in the galaxy. Men, women, and aliens that could revoke the trade license of a multi-trillion credit company with the stroke of their stylus. If they deemed their patent would be harmful to society i.e. would it take jobs away from organics or potentially kill them?
Under the regulation of the STC droids remained essentially unchanged for millenia. Always designed to be process efficient and physically deficient. Droids were made to be clunky, uncoordinated, and non-threatening in appearance. Potential technology like molecular transportation devices and fabricators were kyboshed and research into them was prosecuted no differently than mass murder. As their creation and proliferation would mean potentially trillions of unemployed beings with hands out and idle time. Which brought Ky back to the here and now as he looked at the classical Coruscanti architectural skyline of Cloud City, a place where innovators could ply their trade without such oversight. They may never change the big things in the galaxy like molecular replication, but they could make a few billion pecking at the margins of what the Republic, and now the Triumvirate, would allow. Places like Altorel Corporation.
Down below Ado looked behind him to see where the ground was and immediately wished he hadn't. It was times like this he wished he had actual eyelids instead of transparent membranes. "Remind me why I'm doing this" he whispered again.
"Because Altorel are some of the best modifiers in the galaxy. People will pay big credits for their droid modulators" Ky answered.
"No. I mean why I am I doing this" he grabbed the carbon fiber cord attached to the hook around his waist.
"Oh that. Because I don't have that famous Duro metabolism" the older human answered before taking a bite of something as if to emphasize his point that he was overweight. "look you steal it, I find a way to sell it. You're always good with this arrangement until the day of the theft".
"I know, I know" the Duros waved a hand. "OK stop". Ky hit a button on the tripod and Ado came to a stop two meters above the floor. He took what looked like a holdout blaster with a spool and fired it into the wall.
"On three" he whispered into the mic and at that count he hit his reel in button while Ky feathered the slack button, allowing Ado to be pulled to the wall and away from the motion sensors imbedded a meter above the central floor of the office space.
He slid down the wall like a bug on a windscreen and continued to hug it until he got to the doorway. He unlatched himself and held the cord as high as he could until Ky had the line tight and could reel it in without swinging it through the motion sensors.
Now for Ado it was time to get to work and he pulled up the pricey layout of the Altorel building on his wristpad. Confident in his position he choked down the last bit of nerves as adrenaline took over and stole out into the darkened hallway. He needed to get out of the upstairs offices and down to the labs. However, lifts were a no go as they couldn't take the chance they were linked to the building's security system and with space a premium on Bespin there were no stairs either. Once he got out into the atrium he fired his silent grappler at the railing a foot away. He ran the line through a spool around his waist and climbed the railing. Hooked up or not, letting go of the railing when your thirty floors above a marble floor and fountain with numerous sharp edges was not something he enjoyed. However, he worked up his nerve and did just that.
Cruising smoothly down the empty office floors he looked down to confirm his position when he saw a light peeking out from under the ledge of the floor just beneath him. On instinct he pinched the line and came to a stop. Heart racing again he grabbed onto the meter of duracrete that separated floor four from three and slowly as he could peeked over the edge. In a lab annex was a human talking to another human by vid screen. All in all not too unusual but it was three in the morning. Unfortunately for Ado, the vid conference was taking place on the floor he needed to get off on. Instead he climbed up the railing he was now under and unhooked himself. He spotted the first lab annex but before he could make his way there he saw another human across the atrium but on the same floor and turning to come to his side of the floor. Now two humans working this late was getting a little odd, but still not a cause for panic. The building employed some two thousand beings and it did sell their legit modulators all over the galaxy. It would stand to reason they could have some business to do in the middle of the night. Just as he eased his mind was when he saw it. As the human walked from atrium moonlight into the shadow of the floor his eyes flashed a clear light blue. Ado's heart caught in his throat and he hugged himself to the floor and crawled to the nearest door. He got out of the breezeway just as the whatever it was turned left into the corner offices. Ado let out a choppy breath and tried the door. Thankfully it was open.
Ado still wasn't able to ease his mind as he made his way back into the actual lab and found a floor hatch to a vent. Were they cosmetic? Cosmetic eyes would be visible in any light. And he had heard from human friends that they were a pain to wear so were usually only worn during a night out. Cybernetics? Yeah maybe the guy lost his eyes! That was it. It had to be. Feeling much better about what he had seen he cut his way into the vent and started moving down to the floor below.
As he crawled through the air duct trying not to think about getting stuck or cyber eyes he heard voices from up ahead and remembered the vid conference he saw hanging upside down minutes before. This might be a way to figure out for sure what these humans are doing here now he thought as he crawled to the grate that looked down on the lab office from the corner. The human was still talking to another human through the vid screen and as Ado settled in the present human was finishing saying "they have to have moved on Naboo before the broadcast".
"Why before? Why not simultaneously?" the vidscreen figure asked.
"It will not take the Empire long to trace the broadcast. If our brothers have not neutralized the Fels than it will take them only slightly longer to retaliate. We must be in control of Naboo by then so that we can by rights control the GAG on Corellia and order them to form a defensive screen against possible retaliation from Coruscant".
"What if we get control of Naboo but our brothers fail on Coruscant?"
"then millions of humans die while we multiply. It is not ideal but either way will work as long as we get control of the GA."
"What about the Jedi on Tython?"
"They're a wildcard. We have to hope they sit out any fighting that occurs and by the time we are in control their numbers will be too few to stop us".
"Very good. I'll relay your orders" and with that the screen went black and the human in the room stood and moved to the door. There was no wasted time or motions. The human never moved his hands from the desk on either side of the vid screen. He never rocked in his chair or made a frustrated motion with his hands at his partner's questions. It was clear now to Ado that the humans he had seen were actually skinjobs; droids covered in flesh to look human. A modification that had been highly illegal since the Droid Uprising before the Great War some six thousands years ago. Ado knew as he backed up that he had just stumbled upon the planning for the Second Droid Uprising, and he was now the only being in a galaxy of hundreds of trillions that could do anything to stop it.
This job was bust. He no longer cared about the processors, and as much as he might complain he knew Ky wouldn't care either. He shimmied his way back to the vent he had entered but now saw another synthetic in the annex. He continued to back up as quietly as he could and a few minutes later came to another vent over a processor cooling station. He cut that vent and dropped down. As he got his bearings in the freezing cold room he noticed blue bags everywhere around the room. He reached for the nearest one, his mind already racing, and unzipped it. There staring back at him was the cloudy-eyed face of a dead human. He recoiled in terror and bumped into the humming cooling unit. He reached for the one beside it and with now shaking hands unzipped that one as well. This time it was a human female no older than ten.
Ado stood, his heart thumping in his temples. Bile rising in his esophagus which he choked back down bitterly. The room must've held thirty to forty body bags and was just one of a dozen cooling stations around the labs. Worse, to his sheer horror, there was another ten or eleven rooms just like this. He had no doubt they were filled as well. Not only did the synthetics kill the Altorel employees, but they must have gone to their homes and killed their family members as well. But how long could they keep up this ruse? Eventually the friends of these families would begin to ask questions. Whatever they were planning had to be done soon.
Ado ducked out of the cooling station and sneaked back towards the lift banks. There was no way he could risk going back out to the atrium. He shot into the first lift and pressed the button for the top floor. As the glass tube hit the halfway mark in its rise he saw a synthetic come out an office and coldly look left and right, no doubt trying to hone in on the noise he heard, before he looked up to Ado in the lift. He didn't yell. He didn't gesticulate. He simply started walking towards the lifts…quickly. Ado had been a child during the One Sith uprising was and he remembered a bar exploding right near his childhood home that he later learned was caused by Ania Solo. But the fear he felt as an eight year old child paled into comparison to the fear he felt as the lift doors opened. He dare not look left or right as he tore out of the lift and sprinted down the breezeway to the conference room. Halfway there he finally turned on his throat mic. "Ky drop the cord now!" the volume of his voice scared himself and definitely startled the captain. "By the Force!" he shouted.
As Ado came to the room he heard the lifts from the bank to his left ding and the doors opened to reveal two synthetics with blasters. Ado ducked as the bolts came across the atrium and shattered the office windows above his head. He scrambled into the conference room. Thankfully he and Burel had been together long enough that the human did not question him and the cord was already lowered. Ado ran right through the motion sensors and hooked himself up, his fingers fumbling with the clasp as bolts began to hit the entryway.
"Stang! Stang! Stang!" he cried as he finally got the clasp in. "Good!" he yelled above him and immediately the line tightened and ripped him up from the floor and toward the skylight and freedom. Glass continued to shatter below him as he hit the self-made hole in the skylight and was pulled all the way onto the roof by his partner.
"Lets go!" Ado shouted as he rose to his feet and unhooked himself. Ky started breaking down the tripod as fast as he could, starting at the base.
"Leave it! No time!" Ado pulled at him and shots came through the skylight emphasizing Ado's point. Ky left everything and the two ran and then butt slid down to the roof transom and their waiting speeder.
In the conference room the synth called Enfor by other synths looked to his leader. "Do you want me to get a speeder brought around?"
The leader, Kaysix, looked at him and gave a barely perceptible shake. "No brother. Get me all the vid feeds in the building. And get someone up there and see what they left".